And Now For Something Completely Different

Posted in Side Topics at 11:59 am by Stephen

I was writing up a post about President’s Day and presidential movies, but it was a lot harder to come up with titles I actually liked than I thought it would be, and then I got distracted by this (after the jump):

I think we can all agree that, as stupid as that is, there’s something ridiculously hilarious about it. But it really makes me wonder — as much as we hear about the Internet being the next big way to distribute rich media, where are all the real success stories? Have we yet had a really great film (or song, or whatever) emerge from the Internet? Sure, the Net is helpful for publicizing things and distributing silly videos (or silly podcasts), but will we ever see it be the birthplace of a major piece of art?


  1. Sam (405) said,

    February 19, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I was thinking of posting this here as well, but you beat me to it. Yeah, it’s hilarious, despite how simple it really is. Good lip-synching work, and even though the same clips get reused a skillion times, it still all works. Particularly inspired is saving the first two-shot for just the right moment in the song, toward the end.

    But yeah, it’s funny that we haven’t seen much in the way of capital-A Art online yet. It’ll probably just take time. YouTube, success that it is in many ways, is not the least bit conducive for original art. Someone who cares enough to invest the time into something more than a lunch break diversion isn’t going to want to sacrifice the resolution, the distribution control, or the look-and-feel of the delivery to use YouTube. Obviously you don’t *have* to use YouTube to distribute video online, by any means, and YouTube doesn’t provide any functionality you couldn’t build yourself beforehand. But the raging success of YouTube suggests to me that the infrastructure for distributing video online without it isn’t as convenient as it needs to be.

  2. Parker (16) said,

    February 22, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    I agree and disagree. I do think we’re still waiting to see 95% of the internet’s potential for real art. But we should also think of said art in terms of old media vs. new media. I don’t know that we should expect, for example, full-length movies to be so integrated with the internet, because the former is highly linear while the latter is much more abstract and channels “instant access” instead of “time-release.”

    I’m a web designer by trade. A lot of people I work with are convinced that lengthy, full-motion video is the future of the web. I’m convinced otherwise. That kind of media is for TV. The internet is much more interactive, social, and organic. Over time we should expect these traits to manifest unexpected new art forms, not mirror the old ones. I can’t predict what they will be, but my money’s on, well, Something Completely Different.

    I would look to social networking sites as the first rumblings of an emerging art form. Not the end result, of course, but a sign of things to come. There are still a lot of kinks to work out. We’re only just beginning to realize the collaborative nature of this web thing. There’s no telling how our lives and media and information will become more intertwined in the years to come. I’ve been thinking a lot about intellectual property lately. That’s a whole other discussion, but it’s becoming clearer to me that we need to seriously rethink ownership of data in an age of information redistribution and — as we’ve seen in this video — mashups. Copyrights are rapidly becoming obsolete, but we don’t really have a feasible alternative yet. It’ll come.

  3. SplishFish (29) said,

    February 26, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Part of the problem is how to define what “internet” as a media is. While brilliant examples of editing abound (the trailer for Shining as romantic comedy, Star Wars as silent movie, and the Gollum example above) it’s using pre-existing material created in other media and distributed.

    Is editing considered its own media? Are novels written as pure eBooks (i.e., no other distribution channel) considered “internet”? Is an image created in Photoshop and only shown on the web “internet”? I don’t know.

    Continuing Parker’s point, I think that what would set the internet apart as a media is the aspect of collaboration and interactivity with the work. We have the potential to be active creators in the work instead of mere observers of it. Maybe Wikipedia and like projects are the best current examples of internet as a media. It may not be “art” per se, but it’s something that could never have existed without the internet.

  4. Stephen (221) said,

    February 27, 2007 at 9:53 am

    I don’t want to come off as a Luddite here — after all, I’m a guy doing a podcast every week. I love the Internet, and I think stuff like Wikipedia is just fantastic.

    I’m just not convinced that collaboration and non-linearity are things that are particularly important to the creation of art. The best art tends to be highly personal, and even with a medium like film that is inherently collaborative, we have seen the great directors assert tremendous control over the production of their films, making a collaborative medium into one where many people are trying to achieve one vision.

    In other words, why should we expect that what the Internet is good at will necessarily facilitate great art? I would be happy with any really great piece of art, in any medium, mainly gaining public awareness via Internet distribution.

    And while maybe editing is a medium in its own right, I don’t think stuff like The Shining trailer would qualify as great art. Very clever, but I’m not willing to say that it’s great.

  5. SplishFish (29) said,

    February 27, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    I assume you’re addressing my post (at least in part) because I mentioned the Shining trailer.

    Eh, I carefully never said anything about quality. I was more questioning what would even be considered “internet art” instead of traditional media that is distributed via the web.

    In my honest opinion, while interactivity and collaboration are exciting things to think about, the internet will probably always be more of a distribution channel / marketing device. After all, there have always been artistic collaborations. The only thing I can see the internet offering at this point is an increase in scale. Instead of 5 art majors in a class creating something you can have 5000 from all around the world. Will this make “good” art? Who knows?

    Of course, I could be wrong. 64K of memory should be enough for anyone. =:b

  6. Sam (405) said,

    February 27, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Yes, and with a world market of only about five computers, I don’t really think this Internet thing is going to catch on. ;-)

    I think I agree with both of you. You both seem to be saying that the Internet is more of a distribution channel than an artistic medium, which makes sense so far. I do, however, share your excitement for the collaborative projects like Wikipedia that could not exist in another arena. It’s not art, but it’s something else that’s also important and revolutionary.

    I already explained why I think we *haven’t* yet seen much if any great art come to light primarily via the Internet. But I think the potential is there, and it’s only a matter of time. The Internet has been in the eye of the general public for about 12 years now. That’s not long.

    When the movies had been in the public eye 12 years, it was a similar situation. People were excited about the new medium and were experimenting with its potential, but there wasn’t yet any great artistic use of the medium. It would take a while longer.

    The analogy breaks down if you carry it too far, because I *do* think film was more of a medium and the Internet is more of a distribution channel, and they can only be compared to a point. Still, it’s probably not surprising that we haven’t had the big artistic breakthrough for the Internet.

    But the seeds are in place.

    And you know what? I’d actually be willing to make a case that Homestar Runner is an artistic use of the Internet. I just know I’m going to get scoffed at for elevating H*R to the level of “art,” but hey, people scoffed at the first novels and the first movies and the first television shows, too. It’s not just a bunch of disposable Flash animations. It’s a cartoon series with some surprisingly well-defined characters and a world that’s much more carefully drawn than it first appears.

    H*R has the look of traditional cartoons, but it makes subtle use of qualities unique to the Internet to work: clicking hot spots to access Easter Eggs, for example, and of course the main feature is “Strong Bad Emails,” which *could* work with traditional letters but just wouldn’t quite be the same.

    I suspect that the great art we will see from the Internet will be, as H*R, making only this subtle kind of use of the unique qualities of the Internet. Stephen’s right — once you get too collaborative, you get something that’s possibly every bit as respectable as art, but not quite the same thing.

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